By Amy Morse
Did you know that our fine city is home to some of the most talented and creative female bartenders? As March highlights Women’s History Month, Ashley Schmidt and I challenged female bartenders in D.C. to create drink recipes paying homage to inspiring and transformational women throughout history. This series highlights the creative concoctions and brilliant minds behind the female bartenders in our city.
Around D.C., you will notice very few statues or streets named after women. Underlying the ‘naming of things’ are deep-seated symbolic power structures and social norms. Sometimes it is hard to think of a woman from history to draw inspiration from. We were impressed to find a wide (and delicious) variety of cocktail suggestions, honoring badass trailblazers – from the local Ruth Bader Gin and Juice, to Nina Simone – all commemorating global, influential female figures. The unintended project bonus was collecting the awesome stories of the bartenders themselves. Our D.C. ladies are passionate about what they do and have a wide variety of interests in addition to bartending from which they drew their cocktail inspirations. We hope you enjoy reading this series, as it will celebrate the remarkable women behind the D.C. bar scene, their creative works, and the women from history who inspire them.
Please follow us on twitter and be on the lookout for upcoming #DCCreativeCocktail gatherings and art events coming soon. This is also part of the #BYTWHM series to talk about great ideas, art, books (or recent reports like the amazing IWPR comparative data on women in the states and D.C.), life and building community.
Amy Morse + Ashley Schmidt
Bartender at Quill Bar, Jefferson Hotel
Cocktail Creation: Ruth Bader Gin & Juice
RUTH BADER GIN & JUICE
- 1 oz Blue Coat Gin
- 1 oz New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (2014 Kono from Marlborough)
- .75 fresh lime juice
- .25 lavender honey
- .75 pomegranate juice
- 1 dash Bitter Truth grapefruit bitters
- muddled Jalapeño
- Sugar rim
In a shaker tin, muddle 2 slices of jalapeño (seeds removed) into gin. Add Sauvignon Blanc, lime, lavender honey, pomegranate juice and bitters & shake vigorously over ice. Rim (ideally in a lacey pattern) a coup glass with sugar and double strain the cocktail.
The Notorious R.B.G. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, is one of Rachel’s legal heroes. Rachel is a graduate from Georgetown Law and is deeply inspired by R.B.G.’s contributions to the field. To honor the combination of R.B.G.’s fiery brilliance, significant cultural accomplishments and her teensy 5’1″ stature, Rachel designed a lighter cocktail with a spicy kick.
Rachel selected Blue Coat gin, as this spirit commemorates “free-thinking revolutionaries” as stated on the bottle. R.B.G is a free-thinking revolutionary herself, expressing staunch support of free-thinking philosophy in her briefs, analyses, public actions and comments. She paved the way for women in the legal field in the face of much gender discrimination. Also…Gin-sburg? All too easy to pick a gin base for her cocktail.
The jalapeño muddled into the cocktail adds just the right amount of fire to mirror R.B.G.’s famously sharp, even sassy, said and written social commentary. But while R.B.G. does not hesitate to fight the good fight, her demeanor and personality are described as soft-spoken. To reflect this, and to take the edge off the jalapeño, Rachel added some house-made lavender honey.
Rachel also added freshly squeezed lime juice for a tart zing. R.B.G. and her late husband were foodies, to the point of penning their own cookbook. R.B.G.’s favorite dessert is frozen lime soufflé. Rachel’s attention to every detail in this cocktail shines through.
Many, if not all of us, are familiar with the recent interview in which R.B.G. attributed her State of the Union Address “catnap” to not being “100 percent sober.” Music to every bartendress/bartenders’ ear. She identifies the culprit as Justice Kennedy supplying a bottle of Opus One, a fine California red at a dinner party. As a sommelier, Rachel loves including wine in her cocktail recipes – alas her Sallie Mae budget clearly doesn’t allow for adding Opus One to a cocktail. To compliment the zesty jalapeño and grapefruit notes, she added an ounce of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
R.B.G. clearly lays down the law, erryday. She dispenses mad bitter truths, so it only made sense to add a dash of Bitter Truth grapefruit bitters.
And lastly, because R.B.G. dresses up her somber black robe with her famous lacey accoutrements, it was necessary to jazz up the coup glass. As a final sweet touch, the coupe glass was rimmed with superfine sugar in an R.B.G.-inspired lace pattern. After all, we must always Fear the Frill. In the best, most badass of ways. We loved it!
Bartender at Quill, Jefferson Hotel
Cocktail Creation: Calamity Jane
- 1.5 oz lock stock and barrel rye
- 1.5 oz housemade by Sophie, coffee molasses mix
- .25 oz cynar
- 2 dash Bad Dog sarsaparilla bitters
Sophie-made Coffee Molasses Mix:
- 2 cups strong coffee
- 2 oz molasses
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 star anise
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup fresh coffee grinds
Toast cinnamon and star anise. Add in all other ingredients. Cook over medium heat until reduced by one half.
Sophie’s cocktail is inspired by Calamity Jane, frontierswoman of the old west. She drank, cussed, fought, gambled and generally rebuked the stereotype of women of the period. She was a professional scout, and later became a storyteller in Buffalo Bill’s wild west show, though accounts of her accomplishments grew with every reciting. She was bold – she had her share of vices – but she did things her way.
Sophie used rye whiskey, as it was a staple of bars in the old west. Liquor at the time wasn’t necessarily of the highest quality, so they would sometimes doctor it by adding molasses or burnt honey. Coffee and sarsaparilla were beverages of the time, so Sophie incorporated them as well. She also particularly likes the earthiness that the cynar and molasses add. This cocktail will win you over if you are an Amaro lover, but may also win-over those on the fence about Amaro flavors. It offers a spicy-sweet composition, toning down the bitterness of a straight Amaro cocktail. If you are missing fall, dive right in.
Rachel and Sophie share a contagious respect for one another behind the bar. They enjoy the history of the Jefferson Hotel and the supportive work environment. We joined them for a drink in the hotel library, next to a shelf filled with authors that frequent the hotel.
Bartender at Room 11
Cocktail Creation: Sigridsdatter
- .75 Bittermens Solstandet (malted aquavit)
- .75 brokers gin
- 1 oz pear poaching syrup
- .5 oz lemon juice
- 2 dashes black walnut bitters
Shake & strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with star anise.
Jessica Woods, the disarmingly charming and hospitable GM and Bartender at Room 11 has a secret. She named her first cocktail after her college literature professor and has yet to tell her about it! Years later, and still colored by her influence, she is designing drinkable art history at one of the coolest bar/restaurants in D.C. In response to the Women’s History Month cocktail challenge, she designed the mysterious, Nordic-sounding “Sigridsdatter.” What? Upon further explanation, this drink was inspired by the lesser-known genre of women’s Scandinavian literature.
This drink is named for Sigrid Undset, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. Her work centered on the experiences of women in the Middle Ages. Her portrayal of women’s lives was always realistic, acknowledging the complexity and challenges of the female experience. Sigrid stood up for her beliefs throughout her life, regardless of the repercussions, and was exiled during the Nazi occupation.
The name, Sigridsdatter, reimagines the Scandinavian naming convention wherein all children were named after their father. This drink names a hypothetical daughter after Undset herself. The author’s genre of literature bucked the “fairy tale” glamorization of history. These ladies told it like it was.
When she isn’t dreaming up new cocktails (she keeps a file of inspiring names to create), Jess likes to read historical fiction, short stories or Douglas Coupland books. Even though she is credited with some award-winning cocktails, when she really needs a drink, she asks her colleague to fix her a rye sour cocktail. It always tastes better when someone else fixes the drink. Jess loves making gin-based cocktails. Her delicious “Rite of Spring” cocktail is legendary in the neighborhood. Sigridsdatter is a late winter variation of the Rite. She upped the ante with aquavit and added poached pear pastry juice from the kitchen to make the syrup. Between the aromatics of the baked goods, coffee roasting at the bar, and the warm, neighborly convivial atmosphere of Room 11, you can’t go wrong with Sigridsdatter.
Bartender at Le Diplomate
Cocktail Creation: Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
- 1 ounce G’Vine Floraison Gin
- .5 ounce Espirit de June
- 5 ounces blood orange juice
- .5 ounces Solerno blood orange liqueur
- 5 dashes house-made by Morgan, lemongrass and mandarin orange bitters
- 3 dashes house-made hibiscus syrup (for bottom of glass)
Stirred and garnished with a blood orange slice, served up.
Morgan Stana has a beguiling presence. Her creative and intellectually-themed cocktail is just the tip of the iceberg. Morgan is a sci-fi reader, gamer and wonderful bartender (ask her about her Game of Thrones bitters). Her drink is intended to represent several of de Beauvoir’s writings. De Beauvoir’s novel The Mandarins inspired the mandarin blossom liqueur and the lemongrass bitters. The flower theme is intended to represent the author’s writings on female sexuality in The Second Sex. Finally, Morgan used blood orange to represent her book The Blood of Others. Garnished with a blood orange slice.
Finally, check out this incredible interview with Simone de Beauvoir on why she is a feminist. Well worth watching and discussing over cocktails with your friends.